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Lady Spartans a close third at WaMaC Super Meet

Girls looking ahead
Solon’s Molly Walkner makes her backstretch move up the pack, in the distance medley relay. Walkner anchored the relay at the WaMaC Super Meet May 8. (photos by Joe Wilkinson)

By Joe Wilkinson
Special to the Economist
VAN HORNE– With 16 teams on the track, the road got tougher for Solon’s girls track team at the WaMaC Super Meet May 8. The top three schools were separated by just eight points, and now set their sights on regional qualifying, and eventually, the state track meet May 22-24 in Des Moines.
Earlier in the week, the Spartans earned another team title, at the Monticello Invitational. With the conference competition, though, the stakes get higher.
At the conference meet in Van Horne, Solon rode firsts in the 4x100 meter relay (Emma Moss, Emily Ira, Alexis Sands, Sydney Lawson, in 52.54) and shot put (Shelby Gunnells, 41’1); as well as top-four finishes in eight more events to notch third place. Mount Vernon won the WaMaC title with 92 points. West Delaware, with 88, edged Solon (84) for runner-up.
There were plenty of high points for the Lady Spartans.
“Jordan Smith broke her own 400 record, going 59.8 (for fourth place) with a pretty strong wind. Carlyn Haas shaved about 15 seconds off her season best 3,000 time to earn eighth,” noted coach Brent Sands. “The shuttle hurdle team (Sands, Katie Folkerts, Audrey Lester and Moss) ran their best time of the year (1:09.89, for fourth). Moss also cut a couple seconds off of her season-best in the 400 hurdles (1:09.63, sixth).”
With the regional meet Thursday, there will be some adjustments as coaches try to put the strongest lineup on the track to compete not just among eight schools there, but Class 3A teams across Iowa running on the same night for the right to knock heads at state. They will again see four WaMaC teams at the Marion regional, but won’t see Mount Vernon or West Delaware until they step on the Blue Oval at Drake next week. On the other hand, perennial powers Xavier of Cedar Rapids and Wahlert of Dubuque will be there.
That is when ‘what if we do this?’ enters the formula. “When it gets down to just a few points difference (at conference) you can see all the places that–had we been able to just finish one place higher and bump one team down–there would be a sizable shift in points,” said Sands.
He has plenty of tools in the kit; including a solid ‘2’ in an effective 1-2 punch, with Gunnells in the shot and discus. “Katy Misel has been really moving up as well; 37’7. She went 37’7 in the shot at Monticello and then threw (110’6), her best of the year in discus at conference.”
There are options in the distance events, as well. Molly Walkner ran three 800s and the 1,500 at conference after being held out for a couple weeks, placing or helping place in three of them. “Molly really had a gutty performance. She is not quite back to what she was, but she ran without a lot of recovery time. It is impossible to tell her to take a break. She demands the most out of herself,” said Sands. “Trisha Coberly has been coming on and gaining confidence. She picked up some great points in the 800 (fourth, 2:30.72).
The team scores at regionals are secondary Thursday night. The real prize comes overnight, as state meet qualifiers are sorted out, and Solon knows what it has to work with at the biggest meet of the year.

Win at Monticello precedes conference meet
Wins in three relays and one field event came from the usual suspects. However, Solon spread things around at Monticello May 6 to come out with a 25-point win over Mount Vernon.
Gunnells won her specialty, the shot put (41’9 3/4). Haley Bell, Emily Ira, Alexis Sands and Sydney Lawson teamed up for the 4x100 win. It was Jessica Heick, Lawson, Ira and Smith winning the 4x200, and Bell, Ira, Lawson and Smith combining for the sprint medley win.
However, several different combinations were in the lineup; looking for a boost in the end-of-season competition, resting legs for those last couple meets, or taking a look at younger runners on a deep Spartan team.
With 113 points, Solon outpaced Mount Vernon (88), Regina (79), North Cedar (78), Monticello (73) and four other schools for the championship plaque.